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Behold the Blackhawk: Ruger’s Super-Popular Single-Action Revolver

Ruger Blackhawk
Variation of Ruger Blackhawk of all-steel construction and a number of retro features including .357-size frame and steel micro sight. There is a Bisley Grip Variation and a selection of calibers-.44 Special pictured.

In my previous 19FortyFive articles on Ruger wheelguns – specifically the GP-100 .357 Magnum and Redhawk .44 Magnum – are “the Timex of double-action revolvers; you know, ‘Takes A Licking And Keeps On Ticking;’” in other words, these guns have a legendary reputation for strength and durability, perking right along after taking brutal handloads that would kill revolvers from Ruger’s competitors such as Colt and Smith & Wesson, not to mention surviving torture tests such as being beating against brick walls and run over by pickup trucks.

As far as Ruger’s single-action revolvers go, on the one hand, I haven’t heard any stories about their Blackhawk line enduring such crazy and elaborate forms of punishment, but they’re still renowned for their strength (more on this in a bit). The Ruger Blackhawk is arguably right up there with the iconic Colt Single Action Army “Peacemaker” as the most popular single-action revolvers of all time, and is also arguably one of Ruger’s top three most popular products (along with their 10/22 autoloading rifle and their .22 LR semiauto pistol). And with damn good reason.

Birthing the Blackhawk

Sturm, Ruger, & Co, headquartered in Southport, Connecticut, was founded in 1949 by the late great Bill Ruger (1916-2002) and Alex Sturm (1923-1951), and followed up on the success of their .22 auto with the release of the Blackhawk in 1955. The initial chambering for the then-new Blackhawk was the .357 Magnum – a cartridge that had been invented 20 years earlier – thus giving fans of the cartridge a single-action alternative to Smith & Wesson’s double-action Model 27.

Going back to the subject of durability touched upon in the opening paragraphs of this article, Mr. Ruger decided to improve upon one of the salient weaknesses of the Colt Peacemaker design by going with more durable wire coil springs instead of flat leaf springs. This probably goes a long way in explaining why the Blackhawk product line is still going strong (bad pun intended) 68 years after its initial release.

An additional improvement to the revolver’s design was implemented in 1973, via the New Model Blackhawk. Prior to this time, single-action revolvers in general were unsafe to carry with all six chambers loaded due to the hammer resting against the sixth chamber with no sort of firing pin block to intervene; ergo, up until these point, so-called single-action “sixguns” were actually “fiveguns” from a practical standpoint. Bill Ruger solved this problem by employing a transfer bar mechanism and loading gate interlock, which, as the company’s official info page states, “provide an unparalleled measure of security against accidental discharge.”

The Blackhawk is also renowned for its ergonomics; as that official info page describes it, “Traditional western-style, hand-filling grip has long been acknowledged as one of the most comfortable and natural pointing of any grip style. And then there’s the dizzying array of calibers: besides .357 Magnum nowadays there’s .30 carbine, .32 H&R Magnum/.32-20 Winchester, .327 Federal Magnum, 9mm Parabellum, .41 Magnum, .44 Special, .44 Magnum, .44-40 Winchester, .45 ACP, .45 Colt (AKA .45 Long Colt), .454 Casull, and .480 Ruger.

The Ruger Blackhawk .357 with the 6.5-inch barrel has an overall length of 12.38 inches and a weight of 45 ounces.

Ruger Blackhawk: Personal Shooting Impressions

To be honest, I don’t do a lot of shooting with single-action revolvers, since they’re not terribly practical for self-defense usage in this day & age. Admittedly, I’m probably depriving myself of quite a good deal of firing range fun in the process. That said, my one time firing a Blackhawk was back in 1993, renting one at the Los Angeles Gun Club in downtown Los Angeles. I went with the .357 Magnum option, as that has been one of my favorite handgun calibers since childhood. LAGC is only a 50-foot range, so I wasn’t able to do any serious long-range accuracy tests with the gun, but using 50 rounds’ worth of the range’s handloads, 21-foot head shots and 50-foot center-of-mass torso shots were a breeze. And not surprisingly, reliability was flawless. An enjoyable shooting experience overall.

Other Shooters’ Impressions

So then, to give our dear readers a better idea of the Blackhawk’s excellent long-distance accuracy, Bob Campbell, writing for the Cheaper Than Dirt website, did some extensive accuracy testing back in September 2021. Bob fired a variety of .38 Special and full-house .357 Magnum loads through the gun at the 75-foot mark; the .38 Specials produced five-shot groups ranging from 1.7 to 2.5 inches, and the Magnum loads printing 1.9 to 2.4 inches. Highly impressive, and very consistent with accuracy reports on the revolver from a myriad of sources.

Want Your Own?

Well then, you have more choices than you can shake a stick at, so where to begin? The manufacturer lists a Suggested Retail price of $849.00 USD. Meanwhile, on GunBroker.Com, the .357 Magnum specimens are currently bidding for as low as $255.00 to as high as $1,500.00, depending on degree of prior usage (or lack thereof) and/or additional special features (or lack thereof). True Gun Value assesses that “A RUGER BLACKHAWK pistol is currently worth an average price of $702.97 new and $633.35 used. The 12-month average price is $731.14 new and $746.41 used.”                             

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Christian D. Orr has 33 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011. 

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Christian D. Orr is a former Air Force officer, Federal law enforcement officer, and private military contractor (with assignments worked in Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Kosovo, Japan, Germany, and the Pentagon).